Melbourne Museum development Public forum May 26 1996 Royal Exhibition Buildings

10 Years ago…


, Sunday 26 May 1996
Great Hall, Royal Exhibition Buildings

CHAIR : Ms Lecki Ord (Architect and former Lord Mayor of Melbourne)

1 Welcome

Councillor Peter McMullin, Deputy Lord Mayor, welcomed members of the public and speakers to the Forum.

2 Introductions

The Chairperson addressed the forum and introduced the speakers listed under agenda item 4.

3 Objective of Forum The Chair addressed the objective of the Forum

4 Presentations

· Graham Morris, Director, State Museum

· Dick Roennfeldt, Director, Office of Major Projects.

· Rob Adams, Director City Projects, City of Melbourne

· Dr Miles Lewis, Faculty of Architecture, University of Melbourne

· Trevor Huggard, former Exhibition Trustee and Lord Mayor

(Copies of the presentations made by the speakers are attached.)

5 Panel Questions

The Panel received and responded to questions from the public.

6. Motions

The following motions were put and carried by those attending the Forum :

“That this Forum move that the Melbourne City Council oppose the further alienation of parkland in the Carlton Gardens by the location of a Museum. Further, that it use every endeavour to relocate the Museum to another site to the strategic advantage of both the Museum and the City.”

“That the meeting strongly oppose the proposed use of the Museum in the Carlton Gardens as it is a wrongful use of the Gardens and will severely compromise both the historic Exhibition Buildings, now and in the future. The site is also inadequate in terms of access by car and public transport.

This meeting also strongly believes that the Queen Victoria Hospital or the

Federation Square

sites will better serve both the interests of the Museum and the interests of the central city as a cultural heart of Melbourne and urges that the Carlton Gardens site be abandoned and serious consideration be given to the central city sites for the Museum”

“That this forum:

call on the State Government and the Melbourne City Council to consider the incorporation of the State Museum as part of the proposed development of Federation Square; and

request that a commitment to the current site at the Exhibition Buildings be deferred until the options for the

Federation Square

project are finalised.”

“That this meeting endorse the need for the Museum of Victoria to develop a new building (or complex of buildings) of world class standards in the fulfillment the Museum’s mission to preserve and present evidence of our histories.”

“That no blades be included in any proposed development of a Museum.”

“That copies of the six addresses given at this Forum be sent to all members of :

· the Museum Executive; and · the State Parliament of Victoria.”

On the question of the formation of a group to continue to lobbying for the relocation of the Museum, the Chair recommended that interested people approach Mr Anthony van der Craats and the ‘Defend Our Heritage’ group at the conclusion of the meeting, to discuss the ways in which the collective view of members of the community can be conveyed to the authorities involved in the determination of the site of the proposed Museum.

The meeting concluded at

– Copies of Presentation speeches –

Miles Lewis, University of Melbourne,. Architecture Department

Ladies and Gentlemen

I have lived through a period when the Victoria Market has been proposed as the site of new Museum ; then the Queen Victoria Hospital site; then the existing Museum and Library site in Swanston Street (on the basis that the Library would now move out); then the south bank of the Yarra; and now the Carlton Gardens.

These changes have been absolutely dispiriting for those involved in the Museum. The last was probably the worst. Construction was actually under way on a site on the south side of the Yarra which the Museum itself had chosen, which had a water connection to Scienceworks, and which was close to Southgate and the Arts Centre. The Kennett Government simply stepped in, halted the work, and converted the part-built structure into the Exhibition Centre.

Nobody can help sympathising with the Museum authorities. Anybody can understand their desperate desire to find a permanent home, and their desperate need, in consequence, to justify the present scheme.

But the fact is that nobody in the Museum world honestly believes that this is a good site. Nobody believes that it is central enough. Nobody believes that it is close enough to other arts and tourist facilities. Nobody believes that it is accessible enough to public transport; nobody believes that it will have enough carparking. Nobody believes that it can work well in relation to the Exhibition building. Nobody believes that it provides the room for expansion which is a requirement of the brief itself.

The official brief states (p 64): “It is also inevitable that at some time in the future additions to the complex will be required. The building needs to cater for expansion in both its internal planning and its external appearance.”

Two put it bluntly, two wrongs don’t make a right, and five wrongs still don’t make a right.

The other four wrongs are as follows. It is wrong for the Exhibition Buildings. It is wrong for the cultural precinct of Melbourne. It is wrong for the City of Melbourne as a whole. And it is absolutely and terribly wrong to treat parkland as development sites.

It is wrong for the Exhibition Building because this is one of Australia‘s most important and symbolic pieces of architecture, epitomising the peak of nineteenth century Victorian success and prosperity, representing a high point of intercolonial cooperation; and the first meeting place of the Parliament of Australia. It is, along with the Eiffel Tower in Paris, one of the only substantial structures remaining from the great nineteenth century exhibitions.

And it is, because of this, the only building in Victoria with any prospect of achieving world heritage listing. That listing represents the ultimate in international recognition, and means a great deal in terms both of tourism and prestige. But it also requires a commitment by the authorities to the building’s proper preservation and management, including its surroundings.

Such a commitment is not demonstrated by building a totally incompatible structure next to it, with a featuristic blade whose sole purpose is to compete with the great dome.

And don’t get the idea that this is will be a new structure nestling in the shadow of the Exhibition Building. The Exhibition Building is huge, but the Museum is to be three times the size, and to add to that there will be an additional three thousand square metres of outdoor exhibition space, plus delivery bays, plus carparking access.

The north part of the Carlton Gardens will be no more than a skirt about the foot of this megastructure.

Cars will enter the site through what was the major public forecourt of the Exhibition Building facing

Nicholson Street

. A boom gate and attendant’s booth have already been put there, overshadowing the newly restored Westgarth Fountain and turning a major public space into a tacky parking lot. Does this suggest that future decisions about the Exhibition Buiilding can safely be left in the hands of Mr Morris?

That is why the proposal is wrong for the Exhibition Building. Why is it wrong for the cultural precinct?

There is a cultural spine along

Swanston Street

. At the north end is a so-called knowledge precinct extending from Melbourne University through RMIT to the State Library and the present Museum. At the south end is the Arts Centre, the soon to be reopened Regent Theatre, and the Town Hall in its role as a prime musical and entertainment venue.

These landmark institutions are mutually reinforcing. People move from one to another. They cooperate for festivals and other special events. They collectively comprise Melbourne’sculturalidentity. TotaketheMuseumoutofthegroupisnotjusttodamage the Museum itself, but to damage the others as well. It is to hack off a major limb from a body which is not robust enough to spare it.

That is why this proposal is wrong from the point of view of Melbourne‘s cultural precinct.

If the museum is essential to the cultural spine, it is even more essential to the Central Business District. Central Melbourne, make no mistake, is very sick and is getting sicker by the minute. The residential market is collapsing, and it’s losing office accommodation, retailing and entertainment.

Swanston Walk already looks like a wasteland, and this is only the beginning.

City flats in recycled buildings are now re-selling at about 20% less than the purchase price. That is a situation which simply cannot continue, and the rot has set in already.

City office space is in a state of glut, partly concealed by the incentives, discounts and rentfree periods used to attract tenants into the new buildings. But the fact is that the demand is not there. City rentals are lower than those in

St Kilda Road

, and in turn the rents in

St Kilda Road

are below those in some suburban centres.

City retailing is sick enough as it is. Soon a massive new shopping complex is going to open at the Casino, and the whole focus of the city will move to the south of the Yarra.

The same is true of entertainment. The Casino complex is to contain no less than twenty new cinemas. What will that do to the existing city venues?

Every viable function is being leached out of the city. There is not much that governments can do to arrest a decline Re this. However, every few decades, perhaps only two or three times in a century, there is some major project which can be used to kick start a revival, and the construction of a new Museum is potentially one such project.

But it is not being used in that way. It is not merely that the Museum is to be built elsewhere. This also involves taking away the existing Museum and its existing flow of visitors. This could be the coup-de-grace for at least the northern part of town.

My fifth, and my last, and my most serious point is what this implies for Melbourne‘s parklands. There have always been greedy eyes on Melbourne‘s parks, and there have always been battles to preserve one park or another. But there has never been a sustained and simultaneous attack upon almost every piece of open space in the city as there is today, under the Kennett government .

The destruction of parklands is a one-way process,, which works like a ratchet. For there is no going back. Every time you put a development on parkland you create the expectation that the same can be done with the next development. Every time you put a public institution on parkland you create a demand for carparking and access roads which can never be finally satisfied. Every use you put in parkland has to expand, in due course, onto the only space available, which is more parkland.

The Children’s Hospital was moved onto Royal Park in the 1950s. Now this is the excuse for the Women’s Hospital to move there as well.

The Carlton Football ground – or so-called ‘Optus Oval’ – has long been in Princes Park, but is expanding, at the expense of parkland; creating carparking, at the expense of parkland; and installing night lighting, also at the expense of parkland.

In this age of economic rationalism the Royal Botanic Gardens has to earn money on a commercial basis, and therefore to provide spaces that can be let out for functions. Therefore it is to expand into the Domain, once again at the expense of Parkland.

In the Carlton Gardens there has been a carpark north of this building. That is the excuse for saying that this area is no longer park, and therefore a giant project can be built there. But that carpark is a part of the original Carlton Gardens, and until now no permanent building has been allowed upon it. Make no mistake – the Museum proposal is an assault on parklands on a massive scale.

The Melbourne Zoo has had temporary parking on the surrounding grassed areas during peak seasons. Now that is being translated into permanent parking with kerbing, and earthworks, and the removal of trees. Once this has been done the next government can say there, as has been said here in the Carlton Gardens, that this is only car park, so it can now be built over. What price parklands now?

We have always understood that parks were permanent, and were for all people, and that they could be used for sporting purposes. We have complacently accepted the idea that this might mean a few extra structures by way of toilets and changing rooms. But it has now gone way beyond that. They are now used to build giant complexes with the permanent offices of sporting bodies, with private clubrooms, commercial restaurants and with corporate boxes.

Albert Park has been completely raped for the Grand Prix, and now looks as synthetic as Noddy’s Toy Town, with a giant building in the middle. But you’ve seen nothing yet.

There is now to be an even bigger structure put up at the north-west comer as an indoor sports and aquatic centre. It will be seven times the size of the Pit Building, or approximately the same size as the giant Melbourne Exhibition Centre on the south side of the Yarra.

If so much parkland can be destroyed by a single government, why should the next government not do the same again? And the one after? And how long before there is nothing left?

This is symptomatic of the planning process in modem Victoria. There are no overall policies. Decisions are arbitrary and inconsistent. There is no public input, no professional review, and no avenue for public protest or appeal. Assumptions that we all took for granted – like the idea that parkland is permanent open space – are repudiated and ridiculed.

And it is dog eat dog. The sort of people who support the planning process, who love the parkland, and who have a vision of an urbane and civilised city, are the very people who would naturally support institutions like the Museum of Victoria. Yet now a wedge is driven between us, and we are forced into opposite camps.

Let us recognise that the supporters of the parks and the supporters of the Museum are not enemies but allies. We have a common enemy, and that is the Philistines – those people in politics, administration and public life, who would foist upon us an irrational and destructive proposal.

It is a proposal which will oust the Museum from its rightful place at the heart of Melbourne and sever it from its public, which will devalue one of our greatest public monuments, which will sap the cultural life of Melbourne, which will help in bringing the CBD to its knees, and which will unleash the hounds of hell upon the tattered remains of Melbourne’s parks and gardens.

By Tervor Huggard, Former Lord Mayor and Trustee of the Royal Exhibition Building

Is it to be Position, Position and Position or is it to be Isolated from Transport, Isolated from the other arts and Isolated from its most important resource – People?

A paper on the Strategic Planning of our City and the appropriate position of the

Museum of Victoria to benefit the City, the State and the Museum by Trevor

Huggard, Former Exhibition Trustee, Lord Mayor of Melbourne and Chairman of

Melbourne Strategy Plan Committee.

While there is much that could be said about the design and its disrespect for the Great Hall replacing its recently restored Centennial Gardens on Nicholson Street with a car park entrance and ramp, a bus parking station at its main entrance central axis to Rathdowne Street and the obliteration of many fine views of the dome from northern aspects I will not dwell on any of these issues in the limited time available today.

Of much greater importance is the key strategic planning issues relating to the city and its host role for the whole of the state and where we place one of the states most important assets, a unique asset, the Museum of Victoria by its nature is a one off, naturally positioned, hopefully, at an accessible, well located venue where regular visitation by all Victorians, especially those without access to cars, school children, overseas, interstate and intrastate visitors can occur.

Most importantly it should be in a location where people who never intended to visit the Museum when they set out on their days activities will become conscious of its existence and have their lives enhanced by being drawn into the Museum and discovering its intellectually stimulating and therapeutic benefits to their lives.

Let there be no mistake in understanding that the Casino management understand this point with vivid clarity!

They have positioned themselves so that they are geographically and psychologically central to our lives and our culture, not peripheral to it. Many people perhaps wish they were not, but that is the subject of a separate debate.

We must make sure that the intellectual pursuits are well positioned to make a contribution to all of our lives and we do not have to seek them out.

Access for all is crucial, obvious positioning is vital, public debate essenu and a process that ensures that the ultimate decision makers are well informed and fully aware of the issues and concerns before they make their irreversible decision.

Q1= of those four criteria is being addressed today, hopefully the other three will follow.

In the 1985 Strategy Plan, a plan that is to be regularly reviewed and updated as a blueprint for this city, which I had the good fortune to be chairman of, it became obvious in the detailed research and just over 1000 meetings in 10 months with every diverse interest group in this complex city, that certain aspects of our city are crucial to uphold or your city will suffer and wither irretrievably.

The important principle of having a ‘strong centred city’ not a city with a dead heart was a central platform of the plan.

The very reason why the Melbourne City Council has had an adopted policy of fighting hard to retain the large array of government departments in the city rather than allowing them to drift and decentralise to remote locations, even although none of them pay rates, placing a huge financial burden on the council’s budget, is that the enormous investment in the underground rail loop and our public transport system can only be justified if the very hub of the system provides access to all those facilities.

It is also an economic fact that where government investment locates itself, private investment follows.

Conversely where government investment deserts the city, private investment quickly follows.

This principle is starkly obvious in our city at this very moment.

A recent press article expressing concern about the decline of Russell Street by the Chamber of Commerce and BOMA highlights that when corresponding decisions to vacate the Magistrates Court, Russell Street police headquarters and the Queen Victoria hospital site all occur more or less simultaneously an instant stop to precinct activity occurs leaving the area and its surrounds in serious decline.

The Greek precinct, Chinatown and the general retail area suddenly hit the wall and disastrous commercial decay ensues.

The Queen Victoria hospital generated enormous activity for the immediate area through extensive rural Victoria numbers demanding accommodation, food and back up services around the clock.

The present thinking of possibly turning it into a city park is bizarre to say the least. The ultimate irony is that we are turning our public gardens into building sites and our building site into gardem!

Unfortunately this extraordinary ‘switch of sites’ behaviour costs the tax payer heavily but fills the pockets of a few select individuals handsomely.

I do hope the decision makers see the irony and correct the ships course as a matter of considerable urgency. The continuing process of asset stripping of our city has been identified by the 1985

Strategy Plan and its 1990 review and alarm bells sounded about the decline of the city.

It is by neglect, or design, not necessity and must be halted-

Walter Burley Griffin’s design for Canberra with its central spine extending from the war memorial to parliament house seems to be well understood by planners and the public alike.

The civic spine from our war memorial past the deliberate placement of our civic assets, the town hall, the city square, St Pauls Cathedral, the National Gallery, Flinders Street Station, the State Library and the Museum of Victoria and leading up to, as Barry Humphries wryly noted in the 1970’s “that other book end of our culture, Carlton United Breweries” is not nearly as well understood.

Its importance to Melbourne is enormous and major civic decisions over the years have been consistently based on this understanding and recent decisions to close Swanston Street to through traffic as our main processional spine where every event and procession from the Anzac Day march to the Moomba procession occurs acknowledges this. A current decision on the books to build the $100 M plus

Federation Square

at Princes Bridge consolidates this position.

it is extraordinary to me that on 3 sites all worthy of serious consideration Federation Square, Queen Victoria Hospital site and the Carlton United Breweries site all desperately looking for a primary use to arrest the decline of our cities activity and vibrance and all strategically located on our main civic spine and processional way are ignored.

It is even more extraordinary to me that the Museum would happily vacate its location of dominance in the city, and in the minds of all Victorians, from its present location where expansion without the disruption of moving could occur.

As pointed out it is not only the obvious vacant Queen Victoria Hospital site that

surrounds the Museum at present but it abounds with vacated sites in the former legal

precinct as well. The opportunities for endless, uncontroversial, publicly welcomed expansion are endless.

One of the great museums of the world, the British Museum thrives on retaining its location in London by acquiring neighbouring buildings and sites and adapting them for their use.

it is not disadvantaged by this at all, on the contrary, and it reinforces the precinct activity and makes a major contribution to that city. It will be a tragedy for Melbourne and the Museum if it is not put where it will be loved and needed.

The British Museum also benefits by having a Museum Station on the underground which firstly constantly reminds visitors of its existence and secondly simplifies the process of finding it by simply travelling to Museum Station.

In Melbourne there are 197 stations on our Metropolitan network, only one of them was

named after a dedicated use and activity – Museum Station – what a marketing coup!

Not even the AFL has an MCG Station – but I bet they would love to see that! Some

will hasten to point out that the Showgrounds Station and Flemington Racecourse are dedicated stations but they are once a year stations on a dead end line. The State government wanted $250,000 to extinguish the Museum Station name and sell it to Melbourne Central as Melbourne Central! They understood the marketing advantage!

Why anyone would want to abandon such a clear marketing advantage and high profile address is beyond comprehension.

This proposed address is remote, difficult , car based and not well served by public transport.

The use of either the Queen Victoria Hospital site and other related precinct sites or the CUB site could all retain Museum Station as our only dedicated station.

An opportunity to invest in our city with a $250 M public building is a once in a life time opportunity and should be strategically located to make a contribution to the city not located to the detriment of our public gardens.

In September, 1986 the M.C.C. commissioned a detailed report by Rex Swanston on the use of its public parks and gardens.

The first point, made is that gardens are infinitely more fragile and sensitive to use than parks and fall into a quite different category of public amenity than parkland.

The Carlton Gardens are exactly that – a garden, not a parkland and need to be very carefully managed.

Secondly it was recommended that major events and activities should be avoided in them.

This policy was adopted by M.C.C. at that time.

The replacement of our democratically elected council by state government appointed commissioners meant that not only has this policy on management of the gardens been ignored but also the presence of councillors on the Exhibition Trustees to ensure that knowledge and daily dialogue occurred but also the process of planning permit applications and rights to objection lapsed as well.

Simply put, the delicate balance of checks and balances that have existed and have been successful in retaining this building and these gardens for posterity for the past 116 years were rudely interrupted and removed.

The public alarm and concern about this proposal is well founded not simply for what is proposed but what it commits these gardens to.

It is a current fact that in the Melbourne City Council area where a public institution is located in a park land or a garden they currently have objectionable and unwanted expansion proposed or under way alienating parkland at an unprecedented rate! i.e.

Princes Park Carlton Football Club

Royal Park

RQyal Park

Tennis Centre

Hard paved car parking and major alienation of park land for the zoo

Proposed relocation of the Royal Womens Hospital to the Royal Children’s Hospital site

Multi-deck car park in Goshs Paddock

Carlton Gardens.=- proposed Museum development

Albert Park, Kings Domain, FairticM, the list goes on and on.

The main point is that wherever an institution is placed in the middle of our parkland it remains in conflict forever with that garden as the insatiable demand for expansion, particularly for car parking puts future politicians, governments and communities under constant pressure to accept the current ‘quite reasonable’ incremental increases of use.

Anyone opposing such reasonable requests is constantly painted as being unreasonable or difficult.



This museum proposal clearly is being built with an acknowledged shortfall of car parking. It will immediately be under pressure to cope with that and the proposals for expansion will commence immediately, not in 10 years time.

No matter how sincere promises are by the museum or any planner or politician the reality is that history has proven that none of them can provide any guarantees that expansion will not occur, on the contrary we know from logic and experience that it will and must occur just as each and every facility in our parklands is expanding at the current time.

The Exhibition Buildings were built before the motor car. The alienation by the motor car since has been appalling and has already commenced again with the parking of vehicles around the Great Hall and installation of a totally offensive ticket box and boom gate at the eastern entrance where the Centennial Gardens were reconstructed for pedestrian access only in the 1980’s.

I was very proud to be a Trustee in the 1980’s and be part of the renaissance of the restoration of this building, the largest Victorian restoration in the world, and the 4 stage restoration of the gardens to ensure we once again saw this building standing in a garden setting.

Stage 1. The restoration of the Centennial Gardens to the eastern face on

Nicholson Street

removing the sea of cars took place. The removal of the high cyclone fence to the north car park was removed to allow public access, the process for reinstatement was well under way.

It really incences me to hear the government say they are only taking over an old car park and no trees will be lost. Let there be no mistake they are taking over our gardens!

Our gardens are not cheap development sites.

This car park long identified by the community and the Trustees was unacceptable and was progressively being reinstated to gardens once again.

In concern at the then Hamer governments intention to build a 3000 seat convention centre on this site in 1979 I wrote a detailed report called ‘When is a garden, not a garden

The points made today were articulated clearly and presented to the government.

To his credit Premier Hamer listened and abandoned the proposal. Premier Kennett should do the same now.

It is important to note that the government had said then that its decision to proceed with the proposal was far too advanced, irreversible and could not be stopped, but it was stopped.

These same points contained in that report are more relevant than ever today. I have also heard the arguernent put by this government that it is too late to change course and it would cost too much to proceed – not bad for a government that stopped Daryl Jacksons prize winning design when it was nearly completed at south bank!

It is indeed ironical that right at this moment at huge expense to the tax payer the gas and fuel twin towers are being demolished generally acknowledged as a planning disaster.

It was allowed to occur because it is on crown land and no planning permits were needed.

Similarly the Metrol building built in

Batman Avenue

obliterated the all important view from

Russell Street

to the Botanic Gardens and Government House and contravened the 1974 Strategy Plan and had occured again because no planning permit was applied for.

The Premier responded to public outrage and instructed the half built building be demolished – a very gutsy, but correct decision.

He instructed all his government departments that they must apply for planning permits whether they were legally needed or not.

A similar requirement was placed on the Exhibition Buildings in 1979 and worked extremely well until it was conveniently forgotten for this project!

Public scrutiny and planning permits protect politicians from themselves and we the public from planning disasters that should have been foreseen.

Remember good proposals have nothing to fear from planning permits, only bad proposals have anything to fear! What an outrage that even the design of a small heritage ticket box to replace a totally disastrous series of unfortunate out buildings in 1987 saw fit to engage public scrutiny and quite rightly apply for a planning permit yet a 12,000 M , $250 M structure does not.

What an outrage that the debate has been consciously diverted to architectural design rather than one of strategic planning and siting. It presumes that it is alright to build a Nuclear Reactor in

Bourke Street

provided it looks alright!

I do not want to debate the colour of the doorknobs, I want to see a proper decision made on the correct siting and location of our museum.

In Summary:-

We do not want another Gas and Fuel twin towers or a Metrol building by ignoring process.

We do not want one more institution dropped in the middle of a public gardens where its inevitable expansion will destroy the gardens.

We do not want another legacy of a facility that doesn’t work because a planning permit considering all the key issues of transport, parking, access, amenity, scale, size, current infrastructure and environmental impact is ignored.

We do want – a world class museum in an ‘A’ grade location.

We do want – the appalling neglect by successive governments to the museum at the expense of the other arts, tennis centres and great southern stands, etc to finally be properly balanced with a genuine commitment to the intellectual pursuits and provide a museum which is welcomed by the community.

Swanston Walk has . had a 63% increase of pedestrian traffic since its implementation but those that criticise it as a failure don’t recognise that it needs the major government investments and community assets to remain or locate along it to guarantee the teeming life we all crave for it.

Unless this once in a lifetime opportunity of a $250 M project is invested in the positive development of our city rather than another sad chapter in its decline then our city and the Museum will be the poorer for it,